China called its second manned space flight a perfect success that will improve national unity after the spacecraft and two astronauts aboard returned safely to Earth. The Shenzhou 6 spacecraft spent five days in orbit while astronauts performed tests China says will improve its future space exploration efforts.
A celebration of national pride swept the country as the Shenzhou 6 spacecraft touched down safely early Monday in Inner Mongolia Province.
Speaking hours after the landing, the director of the Manned Space Engineering Office, Tang Xianming, said the success demonstrates China is among the best in the world in science and technology.
"We believe this great achievement will inspire greater patriotic passion, national pride and cohesion, stimulate our enthusiasm for scientific exploration and originality, advance [a] giant leap in science for our country, improve China's overall national strength, and strive for the revival and prosperity of the whole Chinese nation," said Tang Xianming.
He said China hopes to train female astronauts in the future and to build a space station, but the next step is a space walk by 2007.
State media quoted China's top legislator, Wu Bangguo, as saying the mission's success would improve China's international status and national strength and help to mobilize people around the Communist Party.
Officials say the mission also will boost China's commercial satellite launching business as confidence in its rockets increases.
Mr. Tang says the government spent $110 million on the launch. China's state media also quoted a Chinese scholar as saying China has spent $2.3 billion on its space program.
China's second manned space launch comes two years after it first sent a man into orbit, joining the former Soviet Union and the United States as the only countries to have sent people into space. Both did so more than 40 years ago.